Neighborly Transaction

My neighbor waved hi on the sidewalk last Monday morning. “I saw your new piano,” he said. “My daughter plays in a private band.”

The neighbor’s daughter is 14 years old.

“What does she play?,” I asked. “What is a private band?”

“She sings and plays the drums,” he said. “They play in her friend’s garage on Saturday afternoons with the garage door closed. They play very quietly, without amplification. Sometimes you have to strain to hear them.”

I tried to imagine the scene: three or four teenage girls playing very quiet music to an audience of six or seven parents in a San Francisco garage.

“They’re very shy,” my neighbor said. “You should see them play.”

(Was this an invitation? I wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure.)

“I’ve heard your daughter sing through the bathroom wall, I admit,” I said.

“Oh no,” my neighbor laughed. “What was she singing?”

“Well,” I chuckled, “the only words I’ve ever really made out were something like stranger, you’re no stranger anymore. Is that what it goes like?”

He half-rolled his eyes. “Yeah,” he said. “Yep.”

“I’m surprised I’ve never heard her play the drums,” I said. “Does she practice them very quietly and shyly?”

“Yes,” he said, “but she keeps them at her mother’s house.”

“What’s the band called?,” I asked.

“It’s Angel Danger, now. Angel Danger,” he said.

“Angel Danger. That’s a—,” I started to say.

“Hey, would you take twenty dollars?,” he asked. “I’d love for you to draw a little something. She’d be tickled pink to have a graphic for the band. No angels, though. No angel wings, I mean. Nothing too girly. She’s a tough cookie. It’s tough music, like the Pixies.”

“I’ll tell you what,” I said. “I’ll sketch around and see if I come up with something. I can’t promise anything.”

“Is twenty dollars fair?,” he asked.

“Free is fair,” I said. “How about free? I look forward to giving this some thought.”

We talked a minute or so longer. He pulled out a twenty-dollar bill. I refused to take it. (It later ended up in my mailbox, inside a pink baronial envelope.)

Last night, I returned the pink envelope and money to my neighbor’s mailbox, along with a greeting card I made from an inkjet print of the attached sketch. My neighbor emailed this morning: “She LOOVES it. It’s hanging on her bedroom door. They’ve changed the name of the band already!”

It was a nice email.

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